Owner Trained Service Dog


TESSD can assist you in identifying and purchasing your prospect to train or you can elect to train your own dog. You and your dog must meet our requirements in order to become a service dog team. Please thoroughly read our application and training processes for owner trained service dogs before applying.

All dogs entering our owner trained service dog program must be in good health, up-to-date on its shots, and must be spayed or neutered at the appropriate age. The puppy or dog must pass an initial temperament and assessment test. Please be aware that only about 20% of dogs will pass this in-depth test. As with all service dogs in training (SDiT), your dog must continue to pass frequent temperament evaluations throughout training and will stay in the training program at the discretion of TESSD. There is no guarantee that your dog will have a suitable temperament to qualify as a service dog as their personalities evolve. In order to be eligible for this program you must meet strict criteria as we maintain extremely high integrity for all of our owner trained service dog teams.

TESSD requires that owner trained service dog teams train with us for a minimum of one year and that the dog be trained to perform a minimum of 3 tasks to offset the owner’s disability.

The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs assists clients in training their own dog to be a service dog. Owner Sidekick Training is extremely challenging, requires discipline and commitment; it can also be incredibly rewarding and therapeutic.

owner trained service dog 2 dogs laying together on the beach

I.  Free Online Orientation  This online format provides an in-depth understanding of the commitment, dedication, and challenges of an Owner Sidekick Service Dog team. Abby Hill, founder and Executive Director, will provide this informative orientation with an honest, forthright discussion of the difficulties and rewards of raising a puppy while also living with a disability. You will need to accept that there is a high probability that the dog that you raise will not be comfortable or successful in the job you require. There will be time at the end of the 1-hour session to ask all your questions and determine if you are ready to move on to Stage II. Orientation now open for registration: Friday, April 24, 2020 12:00PM – 1:00PM – Click Here to Register now! Friday, May 22, 2020 12:00PM – 1:00PM – Click Here to Register now!

II.  Initial Application Review, Prospect Identification and Assessments  (1) Complete the online application ($15 fee) for review by our Executive Director. Upon notification of a favorable application, the next step is to choose a prospect (puppy to train) if you do not already have a dog that you are hoping to train. TESSD prefers to guide you in your purchase for your best chance at being successful. There is no guarantee that any dog will make it. Service dogs can not show any fear or aggression and must show a desire to work. (2) We schedule a date to have your dog assessed by The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dog (TESSD) trainers in order to determine suitability for service dog work. The fee for this comprehensive assessment is $225. Assessment results are reviewed by our Board of Directors for final decision. The Board may request that you have an additional Temperament Evaluation by an independent provider or that you purchase a 1-hour private lesson to determine public access training compatibility.


III.  Training Sessions  Owner Sidekick teams are required to attend 2 sessions per week for at least one year. TESSD expects a minimum participation of 85% by all our teams. If met, we will continue to lend you our embroidered TESSD training vest. (1) Group training sessions take place weekly at The Exceptional Pet in Newtown, CT; running in a 6-week block, typically with one week off between sessions. The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test will be administered after successful completion of obedience training at the discretion of our trainers. (2) Public Access training takes place each Sunday with our other SDiTs at various locations within 30 miles of Newtown, CT. At the conclusion of training, the Public Access test will be administered to the client/dog team. If public access is not achieved within the initial training process, subsequent training will be recommended if TESSD believes the team may be successful. (3) Private training sessions (up to 10) are required for task training to mitigate each handler’s specific needs. Timing of these sessions are completed at a mutually acceptable time and location as chosen by TESSD.

Re-Certification and Follow up To keep your handling skills current, you will be required to pass the Public Access Test and prove task training each year after your initial certification in order to continue to use our equipment and support services.

There is no guarantee that any team that starts the training process will successfully complete it. The final approval is granted at the TESSD discretion, as you and your dog will be identified as a TESSD team and will be representing our organization. If TESSD feels that the dog is not suited for service work, we have the right to end this process at any time.

owner trained service dog exceptional pet logo



TESSD is grateful for the support from The Exceptional Pet. Their generosity enables us to offer our services at a significant discount.